Ricky Jay really hates the book, Fooling Houdini


Stone wrote an article about his experience at the magic competition for Harper’s, in which he explained how some of the tricks were done. Fellow members of the magic society he was a member were incensed by his violation of the magician’s code and tried to drum him out.

Oh, those guys.


GOB: “Not tricks, Michael. Illusions. A trick is something a whore does for money.”
(pan down to show shocked children’s faces)
“Or cocaine!”


“and a more knowledgable historian that Stone.” Should be ‘than.’

Jay: “Why don’t you use your ointment on the burns I just gave you.”

Stone: “I don’t have any ointment.”

Jay: “Look in your inside coat pocket.”


Then tragedy struck again.

Really? Negative reviews are tragedies?

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I liked the book, fwiw, but then I like most books on the subject of magic. I’m easy to please that way. IMHO Mr. Stone reveals very little about the sacred How It Is Done and more about the physics and psychology involved in being fooled and wanting to be fooled.

I really enjoyed the description of how thousands of hours of practice can create enough sensitivity in the fingertips to successfully cut a deck exactly in half every time. And how a perfect riffle shuffle (every other card through the deck) six times in a row can restore a deck to its original order…

These are the revelations, and more power to you if you can develop the skill to master them- mostly he astonishes the reader with what is actually possible rather than some simple explanation of a gaff or sleight.

Still, I respect Mr. Jay’s contributions to the art from “Cards as Weapons” through his work with David Mamet, and eventually to Deadwood. I agree with Mr. Stone, it would be an honor to have him call me an “inept amateur”!

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So, are you saying that Ricky Jay takes Alex Stone as some conjurer of cheap tricks?

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I think Jay’s main rub on the book is that Stone represents himself as someone who knows something about magic…then continually misrepresents the essence of the art in small and large ways. That kind of cluelessness is expected from journalists, who will jump into the magic world for a week then write an article about it. But for someone who claims to have studied with experts, it’s pretty inexcusable.

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Our culture promoting shallow fools? I am shocked.

Admittedly his writing is a little uneven in places, but I didn’t find him clueless, or think he “misrepresented the art”. Care to elaborate on those statements? I assume you’ve read the book when you make such sweeping criticisms; I have.

I have close to no knowledge of the subject of magic so I can’t really take into account any inaccuracies in the book, but I read it and enjoyed it. I didn’t read it expecting to become an expert on the subject, just read a good book.Unless he completely screwed up major things, I’d still recommend the book. Now I also don’t fault Ricky Jay in his review. He is obviously more knowledgeable on the subject and reads it from a different POV. But I still think the review was a little over-the-top.

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